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New homes target is people's choice


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KENT and Medway residents are being given the chance to influence how many homes should be built in the county over the next decade. Council leaders from Kent and Medway have set out three options for house-building targets between now and 2016 as part of a wide-ranging consultation over its Structure Plan.

This is the document which will act as the county's planning blueprint for the next decade and determine how both Kent and the Medway towns will develop. One of its most important and potentially controversial elements is the house-building targets for the county and the allocations for different parts of the county.

KCC and Medway Council leaders say they will only decide those figures once they have heard what people want. At the same time, however, they warned that support for a higher target would mean more greenfield development.

The three options set out in the structure plan are: An average house-building rate of up to 5,000 homes per year between now and 2016 - the urban renaissance option; a rate of 5,700 homes per year between now and 2016 - meeting official government targets; an average rate of 4,300 homes each year between now and 2016 - KCC's preferred "housing restraint" option.

County council Conservative leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said he still regarded the government's own target of 5,700 homes each year over the next five years as wrong. He said:

"We want to see what people's priorities are. Obviously, we want to see the economy benefit but we also want to protect the countryside. The higher levels of housing provision we have set out would inevitably mean some homes being built in the countryside."

It was important that Kent did not become a "dormitory county". A priority would be to ensure that a balance was struck between providing the right environment for new businesses to operate and ensuring a good quality of life for residents.

Medway Council Conservative leader Cllr Rodney Chambers said he hoped the planning blueprint would lead to policies which meant fewer people commuted out of the area to work in London.

*The full plan can be seen at www.kmsp.org.uk Comments by May 17 can be e-mailed to kmsp@medway.gov.uk In addition, a series of public meetings are being organised. For details, contact the Land Use and Transport Policy Unit, KCC, Invicta House, Maidstone ME14 1XX. Tel: 01622 221732.

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